paris-hilton-001Okay, I’m joking about the annual contest.  But this is a blog about reformed brats.

They say that reformed rakes make the best husbands.  Well, if that’s the case, then reformed brats should make the best wives.

After all, they’re both people you should stay far away from.  Arguably, they’re both inherently ill-mannered and immature, and probably selfish and spoiled.  And they’re both people that for some reason just attract the opposite sex.  (Come on, Paris Hilton?  Hugh Grant?  The worst of the kind, but very, very attractive in their own way.)  And maybe, just maybe, the right person will bring out the best in them.

I tell myself that.  But honestly, brats don’t do it for me.  (And this includes Paris Hilton.)  I asked my colleagues on this issue, and most of the time I’m with Pat Henshaw on this, who can’t stand brats.  Ever.  But Heather Stanton makes a good point, that there’s a line between acceptable and unacceptable bratty behavior, like “a 20-year-old heroine behaving in a self-centered manner vs. a 35-year-old woman behaving like a spoiled, petulant child.”  The former, Heather considers fairly realistic; the latter, pathetic.  And isn’t it preferable to at least have a heroine with a strong personality (even if we wouldn’t want to befriend her) rather than bland mush?

And where do you draw the line, anyway?  What divides bratty, spoiled, feisty, and spirited?  I think the line’s pretty blurred, and often it’s something as simple as age that pushes the heroine over the edge.  That being said, I can think of distasteful heroines who were successfully reformed (Sandy Hingston’s Katherine Deveraux in The Suitor comes to mind), but I had a really hard time thinking of a Brat (as defined above) whom I liked and would read again.

So in the spirit of Sandy’s call to Dump the Crankypants, I solicited my colleagues to get a list of reformed brats, and they came up with quite a few.  Some I know I’m not going to read, some I actually have on my shelf (so they’re going to get bumped up the TBR list), and some I’m going to make a point to seek out.  Maybe this time next year, I’ll have a whole new brat list – except I might be calling them spirited.  Or feisty.

In no particular order, here are some reformed brats from the AAR staff:

  • Mackayla Lane, Fever series by Karen Marie Moning: “I wouldn’t call her a “brat” per se, but when the series begins she’s a sort of shallow party girl. Over time she evolves and loses her naïveté. I know some people found her portrayal at the beginning of the series distasteful, but I actually liked and related to her, having been a shallow party girl myself once upon a time. And I enjoyed the concept of a clueless, immature girl being plunked into a dark, dangerous world and forced to transform in order to survive.” (Heather Stanton)
  • Whitney Stone, Whitney My Love by Judith McNaught: “I guess you could say I’m a reluctant fan of Whitney, My Love. Yeah, Clayton was a jerk at times, but I always thought Whitney was a brat and they deserved each other.  But there isn’t just one redemption here – both hero and heroine need redeeming.  Thankfully, Whitney matures into an agreeable young lady and I found the romance quite satisfying. But I have to wonder – if I hadn’t been so interested in Clayton’s redemption, would I have made it to the “liking Whitney” part of the book?  I doubt it.” (Lea Hensley)
  • Zoe Armstrong, Wicked All Day by Liz Carlyle: “Zoe is young, spoiled, headstrong, and, frankly, annoying. As the book begins, she’s in her fifth season and isn’t interested in anything but causing trouble and heartbreak. Pretty much because she’s bored, she throws herself at her best friend Robin, and when the two are caught, she agrees to marry him even though they don’t love each other, romantically.  She’s sent to live in Robin’s brother’s home – Mercer’s – where she tries to become someone she’s not just so she doesn’t let Robin down. Over time, she realizes she belongs with Mercer and she slowly grows up because he, though filled with lust for her, is a grown-up and she can’t be with him unless she’s one too.” (Dabney Grinnan)
  • Lucy Waltham, Goddess of the Hunt by Tessa Dare: “She’s not an awful brat (more immature than totally bratty), but she definitely starts the book with childishness and more than a little bit of willfulness.  However, she grows up as the story moves along, and definitely gets redeemed.”  (Lynn Spencer, Jane Granville)

Susan Elizabeth Phillips gets her own section, for she managed to garner three Best Reformed Brat nominations alone:

  • Meg Koranda, Call Me Irresistible and Francesca Day, Fancy Pants: “They’re both cut off from their money and forced to learn to take care of themselves.  These girls meet my definition of brat not just because they are (initially) rich, but because they expect others always to step in and take care of them. The books have them become independent before they get their hero.” (Maggie Boyd)
  • Sugar Beth Carey, Ain’t She Sweet?: “Horrible brat becomes very nice woman.  Sugar Beth was the prettiest, most popular girl in school.  She could and did get away with horrible behavior because of her wealthy parents. Years after a scandal involving a schoolteacher, Sugar Beth has come back, disgraced, broke and alone, and the whole town hates her for her past actions. But what no one realizes is that Sugar Beth is now a decent person, having gone through some difficult life changes.”  (Wendy Clyde)

So now it’s your turn.  Where’s the point where a heroine goes from feisty to bratty?  Do you have any reformed brat recommendations?

– Jean AAR